Four years after their debut album ‘The Great Resolve’ Humble Fire bring us ‘Builder’, a mature album rooted in nostalgia, contemplation and empiricism, they are looking back on experience. The Great Resolve was an album where they were “trying to find what the Humble Fire sound was going to be.” Push the clock forward and Humble Fire have definitely found their voice and sound with their new release. Singing about fundamental life experience we can all relate to such as heartbreak, family relations, but what resonates triumphantly throughout the album is the resolution of rebuilding with the help of those around you.
Echoing throughout the album is the resolution of rebuilding with the help of those around you. The title track Builder celebrates finding the strength to walk away from an unhealthy relationship and rebuild.
The american band who are now based in DC praise there different backgrounds as a tool which has helped carve their individual and eclectic taste which permeate throughout the album. Jason Arrol the drummer was inspired by hip hop artists and drummers such as Buddy Miles. David Epley the guitarist compliments his grounding in Tennessee as a major inspiration.
“I used to go to pickin’ parties’ as a teenager and hear some incredible players rip through bluegrass, folk and country standards,” he says. “Through that I learned how to play music with others, improv, listen, watch, respond, layer, add, etc.”
Xaq Rothman on bass credits his early day influences to bands like Tool and Rage against the Machine although in later years was roused by bands such as Arcade Fire and TV on the Radio. Nefra Faltas who is the vocalist and keyboardist grew up studying classical violin from the age of five, she spoke about how she would “listen to everything ranging from Bach, Bob Dylan, and Cesaria Evora, to Jimi Hendrix, Pearl Jam, Talking Heads, Bjork and Radiohead.” While making the album the band listened collectively to M83, Future Islands, The National, Arcade Fire, Sylvan Esso, Local Natives, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
Taliesin is a reflection on the grieving process, and a tribute to singer Nefra’s dad. Opening with Nefra’s vocal percussion, it is followed. it is followed by a harmonic and layered ‘Oh, oh, oh’. Her vocal percussion is backed by a track of shakere. The track’s title references Taliesin West; a school of architecture in Arizona where Nefra was born. Nefra’s father was originally trained as an architect so she described how visiting the school reminded her of him. Humble Fire’s first track is a beautiful, compassionate and honest opening to the album.
“And so, you wanted out/no winter in this house,”
The emotional and raw lyrics highlight the grieving process when you have loved and have lost someone ‘The things I never said.’ is repeated throughout. Her delicate and ethereal voice compliments the narrative:
“So you took refuge
And now I’ve lost you”
Near the end ‘I guess they told you” there is an vocal break where it is solely instrumental- the guitar and piano is blended- this was recorded live in the studio. That track underlies most of the song, but is most obvious in that sparse break.
Fine Line is a straight talking piece which is emphasized by the defiant guitar riff. The narrative behind the track reveals the fatigue and exhaustion placed on women who are sometimes felt pressured to just “smile” and put on a façade. The musical arrangement reflects this tension through meandering, dissonant verses that unravel into a coda of insistent vocal repetition, disorienting key changes, and a cross-rhythmic synth loop.
Running smoothly into Builder- the progressive title track is a celebration of strength! The background vocals speak to you with 1st person directness
“When I stop, and I see
This mess in front of me
Nevermind that I lost my mind
Finally put the pieces
And build something”
The mistakes you have made and the people you have met in the past don’t define you although they help shape you- to let the past go will only make you stronger. The song conveys the notions of nurturing one’s dignity, self respect and personal values.
Reiterated throughout Kinship and Builder is the phrase “It’s not the olden days.” Reiterated also is the idea of “Who do you think you are.” The repetition of “why” permeates throughout this song but also throughout the album. The thought plays like a drum throughout. As the call and response closes the track closes with “let it go.” revealing the need to resolve.
Scout adds some new elements to the mix, exhibiting attributes of compassion, kindness and gentleness. “I won’t let you fall…l’ll be there/ Don’t be scared“. This track showcases the beauty of relationships and being there for someone and helping them.
One of the most beautiful qualities of this song is the idea of soothing another person, making them feel safe, believing in them and inspiring them to achieve
In contrast to the track preceding it, the penultimate track Blood is Red seems a lot angrier. Insinuating that the mixture of hurt, fight, rage, resolve can destabilise our emotions. Nefra spoke of how “the concept for this song came from this idea of going for a long drive to try and clear your head, but finding that your thoughts/what’s troubling you still follow you. (e.g., “’took to the road, vanishing point/it stretched for miles/like my sorrow/maybe if the miles are high/i’ll forget the pain for a little while’)” It is intensified by the atmospheric sound which is produced by a combination of guitar amp feedback, delay pedal feedback, and synth drone. The pictographical lyrics are like snapshots- it compliments the atmospheric sound . We can envisage and imagine it all.
“The night is black
But your blood is red.”
The album closes with Good Intentions. It is an unexpected ending but imitates the chaos and confusion of our mental states as singer Nefra states determinately ‘I’ll make it up to you’ and ’Bet on me’. This is repeated throughout the track.
The album showcases human vulnerabilities, it showcases human strength, relationships- Builder is captivating, warmly felt and innovative.
“Just don’t tell me it’s the last time
I am more than good intentions.”